Allies Say Bush Can Still Win Despite Low Polls : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Sunday September 17 9:44 PM ET

Allies Say Bush Can Still Win Despite Low Polls


By Carol Giacomo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Partisans of Republican George Bush insisted on Sunday that he can overcome declining polls to win the U.S. presidency over Democrat Al Gore by pressing his stand on issues even as analysts predict voters will be tuning out politics to focus on the Olympics.

In an attempt to try and revive momentum for his flagging candidacy, Bush released a ``blueprint for the middle class'' -- a repackaging of positions that aim to benefit workers whose votes he needs to gain the White House.

But with much of the country preoccupied for the next two weeks with the Olympics in Sydney, analysts said three presidential debates set to begin after the Olympics conclude would be a key factor in Bush's ability to seize the political initiative, and voters' imaginations.

With upwards of 80 million Americans watching, the debates scheduled for Oct. 3, 11 and 17 ``are going to be very important,'' said Democratic political consultant James Carville on NBC TV's ``Meet the Press.''

Arizona Sen. John McCain, Bush's former rival for the Republican nomination, said he thought the governor should avoid negative attacks and focus in coming weeks on explaining his stance on issues important to voters.

``I think the emphasis on issues, frankly, got him to the dance. He really has some very innovative and very important proposals for education in America, and most Americans view that as a critical issue,'' McCain said on ABC television's ''This Week'' program.

Republicans To Bush: Get Back To Issues

Senate Majority leader Trent Lott had similar advice. ``I think Gov. George W. Bush has to get out there and really get on message,'' he told the CBA program ``Face the Nation.''

``This campaign is about leadership, and he has those qualities. ... And I think it's also about the issues. I wouldn't be shy about that at all. I would go right at it,'' the Mississippi Republican added.

The Bush campaign indicated that was what the Texas governor planned to do.

``This race is about policy and voters want to know what each of these candidates is offering on issues important to the middle class,'' Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters.

He spoke as the campaign issued a 15-page compendium of the Bush's agenda on taxes, education, health care, Social Security, family and community that borrowed from Gore's thus-far successful populist mantra.

The Gore campaign dismissed Bush's ``blueprint'' as an inadequate response to the vice president's 190-page dissertation on his vision for the country's future.

Bush had spent much of the campaign trying to raise questions about Gore's credibility and leadership, including picking a fight with the vice president over the campaign debate format that found little resonance with voters and diverted the focus from substantive matters.

Bush finally gave in last week, agreeing to a three-debate scheme proposed by the bi-partisan Presidential Commission on Debates that Gore accepted months earlier.

Polls Chart Bush Weakness

But the damage surfaced in opinion polls. Newsweek Magazine reported on Saturday that Gore had opened up a 13-point lead over Bush in a poll of 853 registered voters with the vice president posting 54 percent and the governor, 41 percent.

A poll of 1,800 voters by the Detroit Free Press and Wayne State University on Friday, meanwhile, showed Gore opening significant leads over Bush in the vote-rich industrial states of Michigan (45-37 percent), Illinois (48-33) and Pennsylvania (51-33). The Ohio race was a statistical dead heat.

Despite these figures, Republican Gov. John Engler of Michigan told ``Meet the Press'' Bush would carry his state and win the presidency, although it would be close. ``The debate over debates wasn't helpful,'' he admitted.

Republican strategist Mary Matalin pressed a similar upbeat line on the same show.

``Mount a comeback? This is where the race was always going to be. Bush is always going to be the underdog. He's running against an incumbent who's working for a popular president in a great economy. And despite all of that ... it's still a dead heat race,'' she insisted.

Bush will visit nine states in six days this week, traveling 6,076 miles in search of votes and competing for news coverage with the world's best athletes more than 10,000 miles away in Sydney, Australia.

Gore will push his ``fight for working families against powerful special interests'' beginning with an attack on health maintenance organizations in Las Vegas on Monday.

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), September 17, 2000

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